Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2024

2024 Hopes and Fears
  • Insight
  • 16 minute read
  • June 24, 2024

Workers are ready for change. Are leaders ready to engage them?

Listen to industry-specific insights from our workforce experts

Change is everywhere—and employees are feeling it. PwC’s latest Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey, the fifth in a series dating back to 2019, finds that more than half of workers feel there’s too much change at work happening at once, and 44% don’t understand why things need to change at all. At the same time, workers also report increased workloads, uncertainty about job security and pervasive financial struggles.

Before you assume the picture is bleak, however, know that there are also strong signs of optimism and engagement. Most employees say they’re ready to adapt to new ways of working. Many are eager to upskill, and they see potential in using generative AI (GenAI) to increase their efficiency. More than half agree that recent changes they’ve experienced make them feel optimistic about their company’s future.

These mixed signals, based on a survey of more than 56,000 workers in 50 countries and regions, suggest a global workforce caught between today and tomorrow. Workers are open to the future, but present-day pressures may be clouding their vision of what the future could look like and how they can contribute. Although there are compelling business reasons for change—CEOs are urgently trying to evolve their companies to remain economically viable over the long term—leaders must double down on making the case for change to their most important stakeholders: their workforce. Unless employees understand and help drive change, transformation plans are unlikely to succeed.


This year’s survey explores employee perceptions and attitudes relevant to six critical actions C-suite leaders must take to build a change-ready workforce across key transformation themes: leading through transformation, unleashing the power of GenAI, and fuelling performance through upskilling and the employee experience.

Leading through transformation

Many employees appear to be embracing change in the workplace (see chart above). A number of changes they’ve experienced in the past year have them feeling distinctly optimistic: for example, three out of five employees agree that recent changes make them excited about the future of their company.

But even positive change can still be stressful, especially when the rate of transformation is intense. Nearly two-thirds of employees say they’ve experienced more change at work in the last year than in the 12 months prior, and one-third of workers say they’ve experienced four or more significant changes at work in the last year, including to their team structures and daily job responsibilities.

Leaders must support their workforce in new ways even as they accelerate change as the business evolves. Two key leadership actions can help achieve this balance.

1. Lead in new ways to build resilience among a stressed-out workforce

Red flag alert: the risk of change fatigue and overwhelm in your workforce is high right now. Nearly half of respondents say their workload has increased significantly in the last 12 months and that they’ve had to learn new technologies to do their job, among other shifts in their roles and responsibilities (see chart below).


In addition, they’re experiencing stress from other work-related sources. Although respondents report somewhat higher levels of financial security than they did last year, the majority are still financially stressed (see chart below). And although 60% of workers feel extremely or very confident in their job security overall, a significant number say recent changes at work have them concerned about their job security. Taken together, it’s likely many workers may not be able to give their best at work owing to increased stress and anxiety, fear of taking risks or decreased morale.

All this is happening at a time when the world itself is rapidly changing, as climate change, geopolitical disruptions, AI and other forces reshape many aspects of life.


Where to focus: Leaders have an important role to play in helping employees strengthen their ability to navigate change and stress. The rapid pace of change may make it difficult for employees to fully engage in their present work, let alone invest in how their jobs may evolve in the future. It’s essential that leaders recognise this and prioritise well-being as a core value within their organisation. That includes creating a culture that encourages work–life balance, where leaders set realistic expectations, and communicate openly and with empathy and transparency. Not only does this benefit individuals, but it’s also a critical enabler of performance, as overstressed and distracted workers are less likely to perform well.

Because change is unlikely to slow, leaders must also help workers learn to better adapt to it. That requires transformative leadership—helmed by those who can challenge the status quo in a way that inspires and empowers others to embrace change. This approach helps employees build resilience so they’re better able to navigate uncertainty and seize opportunities, even if change is still churning around them.

Although it’s important to cultivate resilience across the entire organisation, senior leaders should assist middle managers, in particular, to help develop resilience themselves and foster it within their teams. These critical employees often bear the brunt of organisational pressures and need to navigate complex situations while maintaining their own well-being. Helping them build resilience can strengthen their ability to overcome obstacles, adapt to change and more effectively lead their teams.

2.    Engage employees on change to drive transformation

Overall, business leaders and employees are broadly aligned on how big forces—such as technology, climate change and competitive dynamics—will reshape companies and jobs. However, there are some notable differences. For example, CEOs are more likely than workers to cite technological change as a major driver of change (see chart below). And behind these aggregate numbers is the need for leaders to communicate and engage with all segments of their workforce in conversations about why change is needed, the actions the company is taking, and the implications for roles and jobs.


Granted, some workers do appear to anticipate change. For instance, 40% of respondents who have used GenAI in the past 12 months say it will fundamentally change their profession in under five years. But leaders must aim to engage all segments of their workforce in their vision for the future so that transformation efforts stick.

Where to focus: When employees understand the reasons for change, they’re more engaged and connected to the organisation’s goals. Leaders must communicate how megatrends such as technological disruption are altering the business context and how such changes influence the company’s strategy; then, they must connect that to the changes they’re asking employees to make. Frequent and transparent communication will be required from leaders at every level, but especially from CEOs and other senior leaders.

Equally important, however, is to engage and inspire employees by sharing your vision for the future of the company and their role in that future. When people feel excited and motivated about what lies ahead, they’re far more likely to embrace change.

They also need to be empowered to contribute, as they’re more likely to buy into change when they help create it. One approach is citizen-led innovation, which empowers employees to propose and test new ideas and ways of working in their daily jobs. Citizen-led innovation requires advocacy and support from senior leaders so employees know they can experiment. By placing innovation in the hands of workers, the approach provides them with opportunities to actively engage in and drive change.

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Unleashing the power of GenAI

The true potential for groundbreaking innovations with GenAI will come from workers themselves, particularly those who use it most. But widespread use of GenAI in the workplace hasn’t yet caught on. Although 61% of workers say they’ve used GenAI at work at least once in the past 12 months, far fewer are using it on a daily or even weekly basis (see chart below).

To maximise the benefits of GenAI, leaders must empower their workforce to experiment and use it to rethink how work gets done. They must also address the challenges that keep some employees (and leaders) from exploring its capabilities, such as not seeing opportunities to use it in their line of work. And they must enable employees to gain the skills needed to get the most out of GenAI, in addition to continuing to help them build the human skills they also want, such as communication, leadership and problem-solving. PwC’s recently published AI Jobs Barometer calculates that skills sought by employers are changing at a 25% higher rate in occupations most able to use AI. Two actions can help leaders gain traction on using GenAI in their organisations.


3.    Help employees lead on innovation

Workers and CEOs are on the same page when it comes to red tape, wasted time and organisational friction at work. Both feel about 40% of the time they spend on administrative activities is being spent inefficiently—and both believe GenAI could help free up that time. More than 80% of workers who use GenAI daily expect it to make their time at work more efficient in the next 12 months (see chart below).

Of course, organisational friction can’t be eased entirely by technology. It also takes people working together to address sticking points and change behaviours that may be contributing to sludge, such as by changing meeting protocols. Leaders play a key role in this by establishing policies and role modelling desired behaviours, while employees play a pivotal role in dealing with change from the bottom up.


One caveat: People can’t use what they don’t have. More than one in ten workers who have not used GenAI at work say their employer does not allow the use of GenAI tools, and nearly a quarter say their employer hasn’t given them access to GenAI.

Where to focus: Creating efficiencies with GenAI is important, but it’s only scratching the surface. The promise of GenAI lies in going beyond simply improving the way work gets done to using it as a means for growth. That comes from giving employees the freedom to innovate and iterate, such as through a citizen-led approach and by empowering employees to interact with new digital intelligence to fill gaps in creativity and innovation. The fastest way to get your business to adapt to new technologies and ways of working is to empower your people to experiment with both.

It’s also essential to upskill everyone on GenAI regardless of industry or role. Even if the benefits of GenAI are not immediately apparent in all areas, there may still be opportunities for employees to optimise their work processes or support decision-making using AI technologies. In addition, given that the ongoing advancement of AI technology is likely to significantly impact virtually all industries and job roles, upskilling everyone can help prepare workers—which helps ensure that employees are not left behind as industries evolve.

In addition, senior leaders can lead by example. Only about one in five senior executives and 17% of managers say they’re using GenAI daily—a clear call to action for leaders to upskill and use GenAI as much as employees do, not just for their own work, but so that they can coach workers on ways to use it in theirs.

4.    Instil confidence in GenAI

Employees recognise that GenAI, like any other technology, has both strengths and weaknesses. Among their concerns are that GenAI will increase bias against them at work, and that GenAI may produce misinformation that they won’t be able to recognise. These perceptions are more widespread among GenAI’s most frequent users. This speaks to the importance of having a supportive environment with clear governance, guidelines and training. That also includes having guard rails and a Responsible AI strategy in place.

Despite their recognition of potential risks, employees’ perception of GenAI is notably more positive than negative (see chart below). More than 70% of employees in our survey who have used GenAI agree that the tools will create opportunities to learn new skills at work, be more creative at work and improve the quality of their work. And half of all adopters expect GenAI to lead to higher salaries—an expectation that’s even higher among those who use GenAI daily.


Where to focus: Every senior leader needs to be involved in establishing trust in AI, fostering adoption and ensuring it’s used responsibly across the organisation. It’s something leaders must prioritise and make time for, not just once, but continually as GenAI evolves.

A human-led, tech-powered approach can help leaders instil confidence that the risks associated with GenAI are understood and there are guard rails in place. Education and training on responsible AI use is critical for both employees and leaders if they are to spot bias and misinformation and counteract their effects. Emphasise the need for human review and verification—people should always oversee GenAI rigorously and make decisions in high-value or high-risk situations. In addition, support employees by using software tools designed to identify AI-generated content, verify its output and assess it for bias.

As companies roll out AI tools, including GenAI, leaders should be transparent about the use of AI systems in decision-making processes and communicate how these systems are designed, what data they use and what algorithms they employ. This transparency can help build trust and confidence among employees and address concerns about bias.

Finally, employee feedback is critical. Create channels through which employees can share their experiences using your company’s AI systems.

Fuelling performance through upskilling and the employee experience

Our survey suggests job satisfaction has ticked up slightly from last year: 60% of employees say they’re very or moderately satisfied, compared with 56% who said so last year. But job satisfaction doesn’t necessarily mean employees will remain with their employer, and it appears much of the workforce is eyeing other opportunities. More employees say they’re likely to change employers in the next 12 months than even during the ‘great resignation’ of 2022 (see chart below). Though that sentiment may not be reflected in current labour dynamics, it does shed light on the psyche of the workforce.


Employees’ personal experiences at work shape their perception of change and their willingness to participate in it. For employers, getting it wrong raises the risk of disengagement, stalled innovation, attrition and diminished technology adoption. Here are two actions that can help.

5.    Recognise how critical skill-building is to workers

Upskilling has become so valuable to employees that they see it as a company differentiator. Almost half of employees say that having opportunities to learn new skills is a key consideration when it comes to their decision to stay with their employer or leave for another job. To put that into perspective, employees who say they are likely to switch employers in the next 12 months are nearly twice as likely to strongly consider opportunities to learn new skills in such decisions​ (see chart below).


What’s more, employees who are likely to leave may be more attuned to change than the general workforce: 51% moderately or strongly agree that the skills their job requires will change in the next five years.

Fewer than half (46%) of workers surveyed say they moderately or strongly agree that their employer provides adequate opportunities to learn new skills that would be helpful to their career.

Companies with well-developed upskilling programmes in place need to consider whether they are reaching all employees. In our survey, workers whose jobs require specialist training were more than twice as likely to agree that their employer provides adequate skills development opportunities, compared with those without (36%; see chart below).


It’s also worth evaluating the scope of your upskilling programme. On-the-job training, experience and mentorship are valuable ways to help employees develop new skills as well as to use skills they may not get to use in their regular roles. Consider:

  • More than a third of workers say they have skills that are not clear from their qualifications, job history or job title.
  • Of workers likely to switch employers, half agree at least moderately that they have ‘hidden’ skills, and many (76%) agree it would be easy to find a new job that uses their skills.
  • Workers with specialist training appear far more attuned to how the skills their job requires may change (48%) than workers without (17%).

Where to focus: Taken together, these stats show how critical it is for companies to create ample opportunities for all employees to develop skills on the job and to ensure that leaders are providing guidance and mentoring about what kinds of skills employees need to build. It’s also important to create a culture of learning, where creating time for learning on the job is part of the organisation’s DNA.

Meanwhile, don’t overlook the talent hiding in plain sight. Use skills inventories to gain comprehensive insights into the skills and expertise of your workforce. This can also help you shift to a skills-first approach, which helps companies, workers, and society by removing barriers to people’s ability to apply their skills and contribute at work.

6. Prioritise the employee experience for performance

What would help employees be more productive and engaged? It’s a timeless question from leaders, and one answer is to close the gaps between what employees say is most important and what they’re actually experiencing at work. Our survey found several such gaps, including in pay, fulfilment and flexibility (see chart below).

Unsurprisingly, the top factor employees say will help them do their jobs better is fair pay for performance. Of the 82% of workers who rated being fairly paid as very important or extremely important, less than three-fifths moderately or strongly agree their current job provides that.

Employees also ranked flexibility and fulfilling work as highly important. As with pay, however, there’s a gap between those who say those factors are very or extremely important and what they’re actually experiencing.


Where to focus: Employees who feel they aren’t getting what they need are likely to be less engaged at work and less willing to buy in to change. Pay, in particular, counts for a lot, and it’s critical that companies strive to ensure they’re providing a competitive and livable wage. PwC US research shows that economic stress takes a toll on employees’ emotional and physical well-being and hurts their productivity and engagement.

Factors such as flexibility and fulfilling work are also highly valued aspects of the employee experience. Flexibility helps employees better maintain their work–life balance, which helps them stay motivated at work and helps give them the energy and mental clarity to perform their jobs well. Fulfilling work helps them find purpose in their day-to-day jobs. Employees see purpose as a way to bring meaning to their work and understand the contributions they are making to the company, as well as society.

One way for leaders to lighten the load for employees is through stronger rationalising and alignment of technology within their organisations. That could involve simplifying the overall technology setup, such as through centralised systems that replace disparate tools. For example, integrated technologies such as digital assistants can provide a user-friendly interface that supports employees in navigating and using various technologies. This can reduce the need for extensive training on multiple platforms and lead to more efficient ways of getting tasks done—which could be especially helpful at a time when employees are experiencing increased workloads and being asked to spend more time learning new technologies.

Is the ‘great resignation’ over? That depends. The labour market has cooled in many parts of the world, lowering quit rates in some regions. But that doesn’t mean workers are content to stay with their current employers. In our survey, the proportion of employees who say they’re very or extremely likely to switch employers in the next 12 months jumped from 19% during the ‘great resignation’ in 2022 to 28%.

That proportion varies by region—Qatar (52%), Egypt (46%) and India (43%) see higher percentages than the Czech Republic (15%), Taiwan (18%), or parts of Europe, including Belgium, France and Romania (20% each). It also varies by sector. Employees in asset and wealth management (42%) and technology (39%) were more likely to say they would switch employers, while employees in government and public-sector positions (17%) and healthcare (22%) were less likely to say that.

Even if employees don’t actually leave their current employers, it’s worth understanding more about those who are looking elsewhere. Among employees who say they plan to switch companies in the next year:

Job satisfaction doesn’t mean they’ll stay:

  • 56% are moderately or very satisfied with their current job.
  • 13% are moderately or very dissatisfied with their current job.

Increasing workloads is a factor: Among those whose workload has increased by a large or very large extent, 41% say they’re likely to switch employers.

They recognise the value of skills:

  • 67% report that opportunities to learn new skills would influence their decision to a large or very large extent (versus 36% of those unlikely to switch).
  • 51% moderately or strongly agree that they have skills not clear from their qualifications, job history or job title (versus 31% of those unlikely to switch).
  • 51% moderately or strongly agree the skills their job requires will change significantly in the next five years (versus 29% of those unlikely to switch).

They may be feeling overlooked at work:

  • 50% moderately or strongly agree they have missed out on jobs/career opportunities owing to not knowing the right people (versus 19% of those unlikely to change).

The bottom line

Chances are you have a vision for your company’s future. But achieving that vision is unlikely unless leaders and workers are driving change together. That starts by helping employees understand why change is necessary and how they can contribute. Through inspirational and transparent leadership, business leaders can build a workforce that’s excited and eager to turn that vision into reality.

Do workers agree with your priorities? Take our quiz.

Based on your answers to this quiz and the responses to the 2024 Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey, this tool will show you how closely your organisation's priorities align with the experiences of employees in your sector.

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Peter Brown

Global Workforce Leader, Partner, PwC United Kingdom

+44 (0)7789 003712


Anthony Abbatiello

Workforce Transformation Leader, Principal, PwC United States


Parul Munshi

Partner, Workforce Transformation, PwC South East Asia Consulting, PwC Singapore

+65 9660 5011


Petra Raspels

Co-Lead Workforce Transformation, Düsseldorf, PwC Germany

+49 175 4387684


Dayalan Govender

Partner, Africa People and Organisation Leader, PwC South Africa

+27 (0) 11 797 4846


Kathy Parker

Global Workforce Strategy Leader, Partner, PwC Canada

+1 416 687 9014


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